Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Preparing the World for the Second Coming" -- Elder Neil L. Anderson

This talk was much about missionary service and made me think a lot about my own mission. Even though this talk is directed towards 12-25 year old priesthood holders (he says that right at the beginning), it can apply to all of us as we all need to spread the good news to others.

In relation to a full-time mission, he quotes Sid Going, former rugby player for the New Zealand All -Blacks Team:

"The blessings of [bringing others] into the gospel far outweighs anything [you] will ever sacrifice."

Elder Anderson also says:

"thousands...have not asked, 'What will I get from my mission?' but rather, 'What can I give?'"

That question is so beautiful. Sometimes I look back on my mission and wonder why I didn't serve in an exotic land and learn some crazy language and sometimes wonder why I am still single and still in school after being home for over 2 years. But that would be pondering about that I expected to GET from my mission, not remembering all the wonderful things I GAVE.

When I think about the things I gave, I realize that my mission was no waste of time. It was a period of intense hard work and long hours, and bitter cold weather. It was a time of selflessness of Christlike-ness; of caring and companionship. It was about getting out of my comfort zone to fulfill my calling. It was pure love.

And when I think about all I gave, I realize that I did, in fact, get so much in return. It was not the motivation, but the bi-product.

I will forever be grateful for my mission. I am glad I put in that effort and followed Christ's admonition in Matthew 28:19:

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Finding Joy Through Loving Service" -- Elder M. Russell Ballard

Elder Ballard begins his talk with a great story:

A man sells all his possessions and heads to California for the Gold Rush because he hears there are huge nuggets of gold in the rivers. However, when he gets there, all he has found is a pile of rocks.

And old prospector walks up and admires the man's pile of rocks, to which the man replies: "There's no gold here, I am going back home."

Just then the old prospector hits two of the man's rocks together to reveal many flecks of gold. But the man was not impressed. He said he wanted to find big nuggets like the old prospector carried in his bulging pouch.

But the old prospector opened his pouch to reveal it was not full of big nuggets, but thousands of tiny flecks of gold. The old prospector said:

"Son, it seems to me you are so busy looking for large nuggets that you're missing filling your pouch with these precious flecks of gold. The patient accumulation of these little flecks has brought me great wealth."

The moral behind the story is that often times we are too busy looking for big opportunities in the world, when we really should be taking advantage of every small opportunity that comes across.

This talk is specifically referring to service.

Before Christ's crucifixion, He told His apostles:

"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another as I have loved you...

"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

Jesus was saying to them that the people should just be able to know by their giving of service that they are followers of Christ. How powerful is that! On the flip side, if they were being slothful and lazy, the people could say, "They must be the wrong people -- they are not followers of Christ."

I just began my new job as a receptionist at an optometrist office. The ladies there told me that their worst patient is a man who is a Stake President. How upsetting is that! One of the ladies who works there is not a member of the church and had to say, "Wait a second -- he is a leader in your church? How can that be? He is so rude and self-centered." They said that the optometrist, Dr. Bird (who is an amazing church member) wrote a parable about the inconsiderate Stake President and the sweet and caring Kendall (who is also a patient and is not a member of the church). The essence of the story was, that is a person is judged by the way they treat others, not by the titles they hold, or even just their church membership.

I wonder if people saw me, if they would see a disciple of Christ -- or just another college kid. We have to really grow -- and also show -- our love for Jesus Christ through our service and the way we treat others.

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Desire" -- Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Many of these talks have similar themes -- which I think is wonderful. It really allows us to easily see which messages the General Authorities (and the Lord) want us to hear and understand most. Here Elder Oaks is talking on Desire, which he explains clearly:

"Desire dictates out priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming."

Previously I have written about having a true testimony, and how that testimony is only real if the "product" or commandments are actually used. This is a similar concept. We cannot say that we deeply desire something if we are never making moves or actions towards that desire.

That is why I love that phrase:

"The desires we ACT on determine our CHANGING, our ACHIEVING, and our BECOMING"

It is not the desires we dream about, or even write on paper -- only the ones that we ACT on will allow us growth.

As is classic Elder Oaks, he ends his talk by urging us all to get married. He says:

"All should desire and seriously work to secure a marriage for eternity."

I think we can agree that most LDS singles "desire" to be married. But as we saw above, desires only are desires if they are ACTED upon.

He uses his talk as a call to action. There are so many good, worthy, and waiting young singles -- but WORK must be done to really show that desire.

I don't know who reads this, but if you are a single guy -- make a move! Ask a girl on an ACTUAL DATE this week! Ladies! It is not the men's job to hunt you down in your home. Make yourself available, stay after church, be flirtatious! Heck, even ask a guy out! Why not? We all must put the work in if we desire the blessings out.

I truly hope that I can sort out my actions into priorities to match what I feel I desire.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Testimony" -- Elder Cecil O. Samuelson

This talk is all about testimonies. He goes through many points on who can have a testimony, how to obtain a testimony, and if a testimony is gained all at once or over time. I really appreciated his first point:

"Who is entitled to have a testimony? Everyone who is willing to pay the price -- meaning keeping the commandments -- may have a testimony."

The reason this one sticks out to me, is that I have heard so many people say: "I know this church is true, I am just having a hard time giving up ________." Well, according to Cecil, this person cannot have a testimony.

When I think of testimonies, I think of infomercial testimonials; when people would call in and "testify" of the effectiveness of the product being sold.

"The Slap-Chop dices up all my veggies in just seconds!"

"I love my Show-Time Rotisserie Oven! I would never cook my chicken in anything else!"

"Oxy-Clean really does remove my toughest stains right before my eyes!"

Now imagine if the host talked to the caller and said "So, do you actually use the Slap-Chop?" and the caller would reply, "well, no. But I am sure it does work!" That is not a true testimony because they do not use the product themselves.

If you "know the church is true" but are not keeping the commandments, then a lack of faith is there. Deep inside you do not do the commandments because you do not believe they will work for you. Because if you had faith -- you would drop anything and start keeping those commandments immediately.

I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know He lives and that He suffered for my sins and pains and weaknesses. I know that He loves us enough to have prophets alive on the earth today to guide us and keep us in the right way. And I know that by keeping His commandments that I can have happiness in this life and joy in the life to come.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Establishing a Christ-Centered Home" -- Elder Richard J. Maynes

Establishing a Christ-centered home is a huge challenge today. There are so many external influences that are battling their way through the walls and threaten to weaken the structure and very foundation our families are build on.

Elder Maynes says:

"We learned that our children might not remember everything about the Family Home Evening lesson later in the week, but they would remember that we held it. We learned that later in the day at school they would probably not remember the exact words of the scriptures or the prayer, but they would remember that we did read scriptures and we did have prayer."

When I was in middle school, my mom would read me the scriptures as I ate my cereal at the kitchen table. My mind was probably wandering to the project I had due that day, or to the boy I had a crush on, or maybe that my cereal was getting stale. But my mom read to me EVERY morning, irregardless of what my mind was thinking about. And I don't know where we read or if I even gained a testimony of those words at that time -- but the Spirit was there, and I gained a testimony in the faith of my mother.

In high school, I woke up at 4:56am every morning for seminary. My mom would get out of bed and make my lunch EVERY DAY. In addition, we would say a kneeling prayer together in the dining room. An hour later, Kelly and Dad would do the same together. I am positive that I was zoned out most of those morning, even when I was saying the prayer. But I am thankful for parents who instituted an innovative family prayer system that fit our needs.

I know my family was not perfect in our scripture study and prayer and Family Home Evening. But the efforts that were made have not gone unnoticed by me. I will always carry those memories of my diligent and faithful parents with me, and hope their example will lead me to do the same.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"Face the Future with Faith" -- Elder Russell M. Nelson

This is the paragraph that stood out most to me:

"Teach of faith to keep ALL the commandments of God, knowing that they are given to bless His children and bring them joy. Warn them that they will encounter people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they will choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps ALL of His commandments. It takes faith to obey them, and keeping His commandments will strengthen that faith."

We have all seen this "cafeteria approach" in action, and many of us are using it ourselves. I know that often I subconsciously think: "I am not so good at doing this one thing, but it never miss a week going to the temple, so it is okay." What kind of logic is that? However, many people do use it. It is almost like thinking: "This one sin is not bad enough to condemn me. There is no way I will be thrust down to Hell because of one little bad habit amongst all my good habits."

That may or may not be true, but what is certain is that the sin will not go unnoticed. Heavenly Father sees and knows all and come judgment day, that bad habit will come back to haunt you.

However, there is hope. The Lord promises that as we repent of our sins, He will remember them no more. So it is not too late to abandon those pet sins that we love!

Nelson also promises that:

"[The Lord] will bless His obedient children with freedom from bondage and misery. And He will bless them with more light."

Are these blessings not more valuable than the sins we cannot shake? In fact, they are more valuable than anything else.

Let us place a new priority on keeping the commandments to a T and reap these eternal blessings.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Guided by the Holy Spirit" -- President Boyd K. Packer

This talk has many important elements and stories and teachings, but I am just going to focus on one in particular that stood out to me.

Packer is talking about people who chose to be offended. Of them he says this:

"The attitude is somewhat like a man being hit by a club. Offended, he takes up a club and beats himself over the head with it all the days of his life. How foolish! How sad! That kind of revenge is self-inflicting. If you have been offended, forgive, forget it, and leave it alone."

Being offended is the dumbest thing ever. President Packer put it perfectly here, in comparing it to hitting oneself on the head. Notice that he gets hit by a club from someone else only once, and then the rest of the beating is done to himself, by himself.

I believe that this idea is lost to someone who is offended. They would probably feel that every club smash is being done by the offender, and that it is continuously the offenders fault that the offended is getting hurt.

What we need to do is recognize when an offense is made. It is not difficult because it is natural to feel flustered or upset at an offense. But then, at that point, decide that that is all you would like to suffer, forgive, forget it, and move on.

On my mission, I would often ask my companions for advice and tips in what I was doing wrong. However, I would always request that they give me the suggestions right before bed. I know myself, and know I have the tendency to feel hurt when I am criticized. But I also know that I like to leave everything in my bed and have a fresh start every morning.

I know that holding a grudge is like a poison that slowly eats away at a person. So let us resolve to be not offended and to be happy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Opportunities to Do Good" -- President Henry B. Eyring

First off, this is an answer to prayer. I have been thinking of these exact things all week. In church last Sunday, we sang the song "Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?" and President Eyring also mentions this song in his talk. As I sang this song in Sacrament meeting, it really made me wonder -- when was the last time I had done any good in the world? That song really hit me.

President Eyring says, "The Lord regularly sends wake-up calls to all of us." These "wake-up calls" can come as someone you know well needing service, or a natural disaster strikes, or you find yourself in need of aid, or as a song in sacrament meeting. But whatever is "call", make sure it gets answered and that those experiences don't just move you, but move you to action.

Next he lists some principles to guide us in helping in the Lord's way:

1) "All people are happier and feel more self-respect when they can provide for themselves and their family and then reach out to take care of others.

2) "The power and blessing of unity

3) "Draw your family into the work with you so that they can learn care for each other as they care for others.

4) "Seek out the poor."

All of these principles are so sound and true. When employed, a real spirit of unity and closeness will be found within a family, and that family will feel joy and satisfaction in their work as they care for the poor who will feel the blessings of being served.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"LDS Women are Incredible!" -- Elder Quentin L. Cook

The whole talk is very complimentary and beautiful towards women. He says:

"Our women are not incredible because they have managed to avoid the difficulties of life -- quite the opposite. They are incredible because of the way they face the trials of life."

One of the way women do this is to lose themselves in the service of others. When one is having a hard time, the best way to feel better is to get out of bed and help someone with their problems.

Today the world is constantly telling women to have more "me" time, to solve her problems by stepping out on the world. While we should not always be go-go-going, this constant self-therapy is not the practice that heals the wounds in women -- it is service.

When we serve others our own problems start to diminish. It is a blessing to those who have service done for them, as well as for those who serve.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"The Atonement Covers All Pain" -- Elder Kent F. Richards

Elder Robert D. Hales said,

"Pain brings you to a humility that allows you to ponder."

This sentence has allowed me to is a very true statement. I regret to say that my more sincere prayers are not those given in times of joy and gratitude -- they are cried in times of despair and loneliness and pain. During that time of sorrow, there seems to be a lot of time available to reflect on my life, and why I wound up so sad. It is then I can see the flaw, make necessary repairs, and move forward with new determination and focus. I am grateful for those moments of hopelessness where I have found true hope.

Another interesting thing here, Elder Richards says:

"During His mortal life, Christ chose to experience pains and afflictions in order to understand us."

President Henry B. Eyring said:

"[Christ] could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience."

What amazing love Christ has for us. He cares about us so much that he endured the most pain in the universe has ever seen in order to know the things we are going through.

When Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, he asked he Lord when he would be delivered and why he had to endure such torment. The Lord answered that Joseph was not yet in such agony as Job was or the old testament.

Job endured horrible trials. It seemed the worst possible scenarios all came true before him. However, Job's suffering could not even come close to what Christ suffered.

In our own times of suffering, it hardly helps to realize that our trials are so tiny compared to Joseph, Job, and Jesus -- but it can help if we go to Christ for help. He chose to endure all our pains so He could succor us; so why should we not let Him so what he went through so much to do?

"Followers of Christ" -- Elder Walter F. Gonzalez

There is one quote in particular in this talk that stands out to me:

"[Christ's] love for God was more powerful than any adversity or temptation"

This is just a really awesome angle to look at the times in our lives when we are tempted to do something wrong. We can first take it down to a more "local" level; such as a youth asking, "is my love for my parents more powerful than my desire to go to this party?" or a husband asking, "is my love for my wife more powerful than my desire to cheat?" Hopefully the answers to these would be yes.

Then we can ask ourselves the original question, "is my love for God more powerful than any adversity or temptation?" The answer here must be yes.

This yes takes a lot of faith -- the faith that our eternal rewards are more valuable than our temporal pleasures. But if we have that faith, and say "yes," we can overcome anything!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Become as a Little Child" -- Jean A. Stevens

Well, I just wrote on this topic earlier, but I will continue forth.

In the world today, children are often viewed as an inconvenience, a burden, grubby, loud, and the lists goes on and on. But hear how Sister Stevens refers to them:

"These precious children of God come to us with believing hearts. They are full of faith and receptive to feelings of the Spirit. They exemplify humility, obedience, and love. They are often the first to love and the first to forgive."

Children, in her words, sound like angels from heaven -- because they are. We need to give our children opportunity for spiritual experiences because they are so connected to their Father in Heaven.

Sarah Motley and I used to baby-sit three kids and would bring them to church. They were not church members. During sacrament meeting, the oldest, Lorelei, at 5 years old, leaned over to me and asked, "Is God here? Is He in this room? Is He sitting in this chair?" She obviously felt the Spirit.

Sister Stevens poses a question:

"Could [a child's] sincere testimony and desire to follow the Lord's plan lead us to see more clearly what really matters most?"

In the small branch in Kenora, Ontario, Canada, there is a child whose faith and diligence made a huge difference.

Brother Wickham used to be a member of the church, but fell away sometime as a young father. He had two sons; each who had their own families. One son, Darcy, decided that he would drop off his son, Spencer, at nursury at the church on Sunday to give he and his wife a break. Come the next Sunday, Spencer was begging to go back to nursery again. And the next Sunday, and the next Sunday, and on and on. Finally, Darcy and his wife began to stay for the classes themselves, and eventually became converted and brought their dad back. Their dad, now President Wickham, is the Branch President, Darcy Wickham is the Young Men's President, and Sister Wickham is in the Primary Presidency. This strong family was able to come back to the church because of the faith of a child.

Thank heavens for the little children who help us remember what matters most.